LANSING — State Rep. Tom Cochran (D-Mason) and State Rep. David Maturen (R-Vicksburg) are introducing a pair of bills aimed at protecting bees and other critical pollinators that are crucial to Michigan’s agricultural industry. Pollinators are necessary for about three-quarters of our food crop species, including apples, onions and several kinds of beans, but many pollinator species — and bees in particular — are in rapid decline.

“It’s easy to take bees or butterflies for granted, but our food system and economy is largely dependent on their survival,” Rep. Cochran said. “Research is becoming increasingly clear that populations are crashing and we need to do what we can in the legislature to stop their declining numbers. By doing so, we won’t only be saving pollinators, but supporting one of Michigan’s largest industries.”

Maturen’s legislation would create a Pollinator Health Advisory Council that would advise the Michigan Department of Natural Resources on improving pollinator health. Cochran’s legislation would set up a Pollinator Preservation Fund controlled by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources that would issue grants for projects that support pollinator habitat development.

“Michigan honey bees have been dying off at alarming rates since 2006,” Maturen said. “If this trend continues for too much longer, it’s going to have a negative impact on our economy. We clearly cannot afford to lose this vital resource. Our plan will help prevent further damage to pollinator populations and create environments where bees and butterflies can thrive in the future.”

In addition to this legislation, Cochran will be introducing a resolution urging Michigan residents to plant native plants that support bees and other pollinator species.

“Michigan is second in the nation in agricultural diversity, just behind California. Many of Michigan’s signature specialty crops — like the cherry trees near Traverse City, the apple trees of West Michigan or the berries that grow along the Lake Michigan shoreline — depend on both wild and managed pollinators,” Rep. Cochran said. “If we continue to lose our pollinators, we lose these specialty crops and all the jobs associated with them. Protecting pollinators means protecting Michigan agriculture and a way of life our state has known for generations. I hope my colleagues will join together to pass legislation to support the pollinators that help make our beautiful Michigan summers possible.”